Category Archives: trilingual

On human rights, love and language

The violation of Human Rights happens around the globe. Often, we don’t even know about this breach, because we aren’t aware of our rights. This simple illustration will help you know and understand your rights. And through this, we hope you can fight for your rights, and those of other people. We also hope that through this awareness, we all can stop stepping on each other’s toes and instead respect each other’s rights
No matter in which country it happens, breaches of human rights are rampant during wars. Dennis B.Wilson cleverly illustrates the futility of war in his poem, “Elegy of a Common Soldier”. We were moved by an extract found on
It is true that we cannot go back and eliminate the wrongdoings we have done to ourselves and to fellow human beings. First of all we should forgive ourselves, as this beautiful quote illustrates.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world
until we make peace with ourselves.”
Another way to make amends is to understand the suffering behind those who hurt us.
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
In both attempts, we arrive face to face with one of the greatest powers of all; the power of love. Linus Pauling, the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel prizes to date; one for Chemistry(1954) and the other for Peace(1962), expresses this view in his words.
“I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, of nuclear bombs — there is the power of good, of morality, of humanitarianism.”
-Linus Pauling
The reason for this is beautifully expressed in another quote we came across.
“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”
—Bacha Khan
Language is one of the mediums through which we can express the power of good stored within our hearts. In this light, we herald the following attempt by the government.
“Sinhala and Tamil are used as official languages and English is used as the reticular language in multi ethnic Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is important for Sri Lankans to gain expertise in the three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English. One of the aims of the ten year work plan of the government towards a trilingual Sri Lanka is to enhance national and social collaboration among the messes by giving knowledge on the three languages to all the citizens. In line with the work plan launched by the government for a trilingual Sri Lanka, a practical Trilingual Dictionary was compiled with the initiation of the Department of Official Languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English.”
J.C. Ranepura, Official languages Commissioner
The dictionary can be downloaded for free on

Facts and surprises

When looking at the grass roots of the 30 year conflict in Sri Lanka, we see that the language barrier was one of the causes. In school, we were taught Tamil up to grade 9, but I’ve forgotten much of it by now; blame it on our neural connections which follow the “use it or lose it” principle. So I set myself the task of refreshing my knowledge of the Tamil language. Wasn’t I in for a pleasant surprise? The author of the book from which I was learning confirmed my views in the introduction. He says that nearly 70% of Tamil words are similar to Sinhala words, either because it is a Tamil word or because both languages “borrowed” the word from the same language. Even the very first word most babies utter, “Ammaa” (meaning “mother”), is common to both tongues (àÈ´$ or அம்மா)

Few more examples:

Sinhalese word and pronunciation
Tamil word and pronunciation
English meaning
அக்கா ( akkaa)
Elder sister
´$´$ (maamaa)
மாமா (maamaa)
à½ûõÚ (adhipathi)
அதிபதி (adhipathi)
àÈýÙ´ (ambalama)
அம்பலம்( ambalam)
Wayside resting place



           Another cause for the conflict was people who declared that the country “belonged” to a certain ethnic and religious group. I would like to kindly ask those persons to check the “Mahavamsa”(a historical record written by a Buddhist monk, by the way). What was the country from which Prince Vijaya came? Wasn’t it India? If we could say that Sri Lanka belonged to any particular group considering the people who lived here from pre-historic times, then the “Yaksha” and “Naga” tribes would be the righteous owners. Even the “Veddhas” are said to be descended from Vijaya and Kuveni’s offspring; thus being half Indian. Of course, my facts may be wrong because historical sources are not 100% accurate. Even in that scenario, the land belongs to the one who created it; us being mere temporary inhabitants who’ve been given the privilege of living on this beautiful planet; a pale blue dot.

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 14

The fourteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

It is true that we learned valuable lessons from Nelson Mandela in a previous article as well, but there are many more lessons that we can learn from him; lessons that could make our homeland a better place to live in. We would also like to wish this great leader a speedy recovery…

“Know your enemy – and learn about his favourite sport”

The Afrikaners are white South Africans whose favourite sport was rugby. The blacks in South Africa preferred football. During Mandela’s time, the white South Africans treated the blacks as inferior to them. This made Mandela and several others voice against the apartheid policy. The blacks and whites in South Africa continued to fight with each other. The blacks would always support the team opposing their National Rugby team. The gap between the two groups got wider and wider. Mandela made attempts to narrow the gap. He started learning Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created the apartheid. His comrades in the African National Congress (ANC) teased him about it, but Mandela wanted to understand the Afrikaner’s worldview; he knew that one day he would either be fighting with them or negotiating with them. Either way, his destiny was tied to theirs. This was strategic in two senses: by speaking his opponents’ language, he might understand their strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly. But he would also be ingratiating with his enemy. Everyone from ordinary jailers to P.W. Botha was impressed by Mandela’s willingness to speak Afrikaans and his knowledge of Afrikaner history.
How many leaders in the country are trilingual? How many people around us speak both Tamil and Sinhala? It is a very small number that actually speaks the two languages commonly spoken in the country. Many leaders fail to see the importance of learning the other group’s language. They think that since they speak Sinhala, they can connect with the majority and that is enough to secure the majority votes. Only a few Sinhalese leaders attempt to learn Tamil, the language of the minority in Sri Lanka. The Tamil leaders on the other hand are compelled to learn Sinhala as they need to use that language when negotiating and speaking with the Sinhalese leaders. The language barrier is a reason for segregation in the country. The majority will start to think that since their language is the most widely spoken in the nation, they are superior to others. The minority on the other hand starts thinking that they are inferior to others. This creates room for issues and leads to violence.
To solve most of the problems in Sri Lanka, the leaders, irrespective of their background, should have a sound knowledge of Sinhala and Tamil. When this is achieved, the leaders would face fewer problems in connecting and speaking with the other group. They learn to see the way the other group had felt all this while. When this happens, the leaders would understand the challenges the opposing group faces and would try and work joining hands with the formerly opposing group. It is after Mandela learnt Afrikaners that he understood that blacks and Afrikaners had something fundamental in common: Afrikaners believed themselves to be Africans as deeply as blacks did. He knew too, that Afrikaners had been victims of prejudice themselves: the British government and the white English settlers looked down on them. Afrikaners suffered from a cultural inferiority complex almost as much as blacks did. If Mandela had not learnt Afrikaans, he would have never understood the common ground and South Africa would still be fighting amongst itself. We can see the importance of learning the other groups’ languages which serves to create opportunities for unity among segregated groups.

Mandela was a lawyer, and in prison he helped the warders with their legal problems. They were far less educated and worldly than he, and it was extraordinary to them that a black man was willing and able to help them. Allister Sparks, a great South African historian defines them as ‘the most ruthless and brutal of the apartheid regime’s characters. But Allister realized that even the worst and crudest could be negotiated with. This feat was possible only because Mandela took the initiative and effort to learn Afrikaans. As future leaders, what we can accomplish now, is taking the steps to learn both Sinhala and Tamil. Though it might be hard in the beginning, you never know the benefits the nation can receive later because it has leaders who can communicate with both the Sinhalese and the Tamils equally well, leading to equality among the citizens.